Real accounts, i.e. Balance Sheet accounts are ongoing perpetual records and represent “real” items; cash, receivables, inventories, accounts payable, invested capital, etc., etc. Accounts receivable and goodwill therefore are both real accounts as they have value in and of themselves.
Nominal accounts represent items of income and expense. Nominal accounts have no balances at the beginning of an accounting period and change as various debits and credits are applied because of activity of income and expense throughout the accounting period. At the end of the accounting cycle, the nominal accounts are returned to zero by debiting them by an amount equal to their credit balance if such exists, or crediting an account if it has a debit balance. The offsetting entry of each of these is to a Profit or Loss Account.
If after all accounts are zero, the P&L account has a debit balance then operations were profitable (income exceeded expenses), and conversely with a credit balance a loss was incurred. The P&L is then “closed” by either debited or crediting to bring it to zero, whichever is appropriate, with the offsetting entry going to “Retained Earnings”, a real account, and bringing the Balance Sheet into balance and leaving all nominal accounts at zero.
To put it another way if all debits and credits of the General Ledger are added up, then they will both be equal. However, if only the debits and credits of the nominal accounts are added up there will be a difference and that di